Local collaboration on healthcare in Honduras
The truck carrying the health team heads out of town at 7 a.m. It will be two hours, at least, before they arrive at the little mountain church under the ceiba tree. Mass is a real celebration. It is a big day for the community having Fr. Enemecio Del Cid with them. The women have prepared a communal lunch, which will be taken outdoors.
First comes the health education. There are loads of issues to be worked through by the seventeen health committees around this vast parish. AIDS is one of them; water-borne diseases another; lack of water; lack of a sewerage infrastructure; and domestic violence including abuse of children.
Sister Renee says: "We do a lot of group work to try to improve self-esteem. We believe this contributes to improved health in the community. We teach people how to do reflexology and massage. People love this. They tell us it helps them to cope with the huge amount of stress in their lives.
"We give workshops on self-esteem, adolescent psychology, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, pastoral care of the sick, natural medicines and management of home pharmacies. We use visualization, helping the group to get in touch with their inner wisdom figure, helping them to realise their gifts. We make paper cut-outs of fruits. People can write on these the gifts they bring to their community. Then we put all the fruits on a Tree. This helps to build awareness and respect in the community."
By 3 p.m. it is time for the team to begin packing up the truck for the long trek back to Choloma. You need to get back before darkness falls. With drugs and gangs, Choloma is a dangerous place to live. There the same issues have to be faced as those discussed in the mountains, only somehow, in the urban context the problem can be even more difficult to overcome.
In Marcala, a five-hour journey southwest of Choloma, Sisters Rita and Bernadette are also dealing with issues related to self-esteem. They tell us:
"We find the children timid and shy. They lack recognition and stimulation and many live with violence in the home, often due to alcoholism. In the more remote sectors of the parish we bring health education, including first aid and complementary therapies, and try to address environmental and gender issues.
"The focus of our children's programme is to help them develop their creative and imaginative skills. This helps them build their self-esteem and find their voice.
"Progress is slow and difficult to measure, yet we marvel each time a little girl struggles to overcome her shyness and tentatively expresses an opinion or participates in an activity.
"It is the same with adult groups. Though the health issues are important and relevant in themselves, they are also a vehicle through which a woman's confidence and self-esteem may be nurtured. Though shy and self-conscious in the beginning, once we get discussing the health problems faced by the community, the level of trust increases, experiences are shared and solidarity is fostered."